As Daytona plays in the background over and over again while writing this review, I find myself finally flirting with the idea that Pusha T’s chemistry with Kanye is better than the one he once shared with long-time friend and producer Pharrell. Signed by the Neptunes’ Star-Trak imprint in the late 90’s, Pusha T and brother Malice (now known as No Malice) from the legendary group the Clipse, garnered critical-acclaim and admiration from avid hip-hop critics and fans with albums like Lord Willin’, Hell Hath No Fury, Til’ The Casket Drops; as well as mixtapes during the Re-Up Gang era. It was Pusha’s ability to recount the perils and promises of the drug game that made him a truly remarkable MC. The images he painted were always so vividly descriptive that when he rapped you were more captivated by his lyrical prowess than you were a Neptune beat, which at the time, was the most innovative and popular rap music being produced. Still, in 2010, King Push went solo leaving behind not only the more conscious and spiritual, rap partner and brother, Malice, but also the sounds provided by the Neptunes for so many years. Here enters Kanye West.
With Ye’s influence on the culture, what Pusha T has been able to do in the last eight years, is continue to build-out his musical catalog to a legion of cult-like fans who’ve been down since day one. He’s also become the Vice-President of the G.O.O.D. Music label, in addition to, a sort of mentor and veteran-teacher to some of his younger, less experienced label-mates. With all of these roles and all of these hats being worn, what the Virginia Beach representative is able to do alongside Ye’ on Daytona is deliver a quick and poignant message that despite the harsh drug –laced content, the two artist, the raps, and the beats are as brilliant (clean & clear), luxurious, and of high taste/class as any other rap music you’ll find. Furthermore, the album derives its name from the ‘Daytona Rolex’ watch, which some consider the epitome of luxury – and who better to help define what luxury is than Kanye West, who paid $85,000 for the rights to a photograph used as the artwork for the album (2006 photo of Whitney Houston’s bathroom full of drug paraphernalia) …The magic of Ye’ and Push is that they are so in sync with one another musically and mentally. On Daytona, Ye’ delivers unorthodox, deep, hard-hitting, light, yet dark beat selections coupled with a harsh presentation; while Push, of course, comes up with flawless ‘coke tales’ and metaphors highlighting the direct appeals that go along with the lifestyle he maintains despite being removed from it. In pursuit of “pushing” the envelope, Pusha also spends time on the record taking aim at naysayers casting gloom and hope for the demise of Ye’ due to his troubling and concerning comments and behavior. Additionally, Pusha takes shots at Drake and his favorite target, Baby aka “Birdman,” once more.
Ultimately, Pusha T does what he always has done on Daytona, which is providing fans with lyrics worth hearing and digesting. For me, the album proves a couple things. First, it proves that Push’s pen game is still as RICH as the Daytona Rolex afforded and worn by a select few. And secondly, it proves that even with a short 7-song track-list, the impact of his music is felt and realized not by how much he says but what he says.
A couple stand out bars include:
- “If You Know, You Know” – “A rapper turned trapper can’t morph into us/But a trapper turned rapper can morph into Puff.” (Pusha T is saying that rappers who lie about dealing drugs can never become moguls because they don’t have the hustle or skill-set to do so; on the other hand, a true trap star could manifest into a hip-hop mogul because of their innate mindset.)
- “The Games We Play” – “No jewelry on, but you richer than everybody/You laugh a lil louder, the DJ say your name a lil prouder/And we don’t need a globe to show you the world is ours.” (Pusha T is pointing out that a rich man, and/or a confident man, doesn’t have the need to flaunt off his material wealth when out in public because the act of “showing off” deflects the reality, which is that even with money, you still can be lame and insecure).
- “Infrared” – “Believe in myself and the Coles and Kendricks/Let the sock puppets play their roles and gimmicks, shit/Remember Will Smith won the first Grammy? /And they ain’t even recognize Hov until “Annie”/So I don’t tap dance for the crackers and sing Mammy.” (Here, Pusha reminds us that he’ll stay true to himself and his core because for years hip-hop wasn’t given their recognition as an art form. Yet, when it was finally recognized by the mainstream it had to be watered-down or have appeal to white audiences before it was celebrated and awarded.)